Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Battle Ground, will return to Washington D.C. to hold Southwest Washington’s seat in Congress.
Her opponent, Carolyn Long, conceded Wednesday evening after second-day results showed her still trailing by more than 9 points. In an email, Long thanked supporters and campaign staff for helping run a “campaign based on facts, policy and the truth."
“I’m someone who believes in running on the issues and leading a campaign based on integrity and trust," Long wrote Wednesday night, ending a highly touted rematch for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
When polls closed Tuesday night, Herrera Beutler jumped out to a lofty lead. By 8:45 p.m., she told media that she was “elated” and “floored” by the results so far. “The numbers we’ve seen in the early results so far are better than the final tally we saw in the last election,” she said.
But Long, who lost to Herrera Beutler by 5 points in 2018, didn’t concede immediately. She cited more uncounted ballots to come, possibly narrowing the gap.
“There’s still at least 70,000 ballots to be counted and even more than were mailed today that will come in over the next couple of days,” Long said. “So it’s close and we are going to wait until all of those ballots are counted.”
Many of those ballots came from Clark County, the largest county and with the highest concentration of Democratic voters in the district. The district covers or touches eight counties from the Columbia River Gorge to the Pacific Ocean along the Oregon-Washington border.
But returns Wednesday night fell short for Long. In fact, Herrera Beutler jumped ahead in Clark County.
A win for Herrera Beutler secures a hard-fought, sixth consecutive term of Republican leadership in the district, and her second in a marquee rematch.
Republicans and Democrats both believed they could win, speculating that urban growth in Clark County — coupled with old union towns' yellow-dog Democrats — could someday outweigh the district’s rural and suburban conservatives.
In 2018, Herrera Beutler’s 5-point victory over Long, a political science professor, was her narrowest victory since she first won the seat in 2010. She is the second Republican to hold the seat in 60 years.
Late in election season, however, national prognosticators largely predicted a Herrera Beutler victory after she coasted to a 16-point win in the August primaries. She finished with 56% of the vote to Long’s 40% in that contest.
But outside spending in the final stretch seemed to indicate neither side felt the primaries were significant. Outside groups threw more about $3.3 million into the race to volley hostile mailers, TV commercials and social media ads, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Some analysts, including at Politico, said things were tilting in favor of a Long victory in the campaign’s final days.
Of that $3.3 million, Republican groups opposing Long, including the National Republican Congressional Committee — the GOP’s campaign arm — accounted for $2.3 million, according to the center. The contest was the most expensive in the state of Washington, the center said.
“This race is neck and neck,” said Abby Olmstead, Long’s campaign manager, in a statement before Election Day. “National Republicans and big corporations are trying to buy this election, but it won’t work. They’re terrified they’re going to lose.”
A day before voting ended, Herrera Beutler had an 83% chance of winning, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
Long, a prolific face-to-face campaigner, saw her stump speeches largely relegated to virtual conference calls during the pandemic. Late in the race, she took to hosting drive-in townhalls. Meanwhile, Herrera Beutler said more of her time that could have gone to campaigning was diverted to legislating relief packages for COVID-19.
The two loudly disagreed on health care, environmental protections, relief for COVID-19 and President Donald Trump, who won all counties in the district except Clark County in 2016. Those topics fueled their only debate on Oct. 9.
Economics underscored Herrera Beutler’s campaign strategy, often portraying Long’s as too tax-reliant for working families. Long, meanwhile, said Herrera Beutler’s policies were dangerously short-sighted and beholden to corporate profits.
Health care was the quintessential example. Herrera Beutler often made misleading claims that her opponent favored an expensive, single-payer system, while Long often noted Herrera Beutler voted more than 80 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.